Flash #225 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Howard Porter & Livesay) closes off not only “Rogue War,” but also Johns’ 5-year writing tenure. As such, it works better as the end of an era than the end of this particular arc. “Rogue War” started with much fanfare as the final battle between old-school and new-school villains, but it has finished as the unofficial sequel to the first Zoom storyline from about 2 ½ years ago. It’s a decent action issue with fine artwork and a not-unexpected happy ending. I suppose I’ll reserve further comments until about 2015, when “Rogue War” comes up in the Johns recaps.
Seven Soldiers: Shining Knight #4 (written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Simone Bianchi) feels like a bit of a cheat, if only because it leads directly into the Seven Soldiers special, out around the same time I’ll be recapping “Rogue War.” Other than that, it’s about the same as the previous three issues. Bianchi’s art is still very pretty. Morrison’s big twist makes sense in the context of the genre, but he doesn’t seem to do a lot with it. Again, I’ll probably do an omnibus recap of this one.
The cover of Batman: Gotham Knights #68 (written by A.J. Lieberman, drawn by Al Barrionuevo and Bit) features exciting images of a determined Batman, a menacing Hush, a demented Alfred, and some guy chained in a cell. The actual issue is very different, basically telling a disjointed-in-time story about Hush’s plan to defeat Batman through clones. There’s no Batman, except a cameo appearance by his silhouette. The art isn’t bad at all, but Lieberman’s writing is starting to remind me of the literary equivalent of an early-‘90s Image wannabee. It’s all attitude and flash, with few fundamentals; and it assumes that the reader can get by on inference and nuance.
Speaking of attitude, JLA Classified #11 (written by Warren Ellis, art by Jackson “Butch” Guice) improves greatly on Part 1 of “New Maps Of Hell.” This is the roundup issue, where each member of the Justice League responds to the crisis during his or her own snappy vignette. Also, a bit more of the mystery is revealed. That’s about it for the plot, but it’s all fun and entertaining – the kind of “To the Batcave, Robin!” issue that fanboys young and old dream about writing. Parts of it feel like Morrison, but he would have taken about six pages.
Green Lantern #4 (written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ethan van Sciver) starts a new arc with Hector Hammond and a couple other old GL villains. Johns’ treatment of the Flash’s Rogues irritated me after a while, but the GL villains seem more suited to his style. The story itself starts with a steal from a classic “X Files,” takes a trip to Oa for a new/old GL Corps reunion, and descends into prison for yet another Silence of the Lambs-style confab. However, it all comes together well, even the Hannibal Lecter stuff. Van Sciver’s Hector Hammond makes MODOK look like Teddy Ruxpin (how’s that for a geek-trifecta reference?), and Johns lets him live vicariously (and ickily) through Hal, even for a moment. As much as Johns gets ripped for his over-reliance on continuity and forced drama, I think he’s really enjoying himself with this series, and it shows.
Wonder Woman #220 (written by Greg Rucka, pencilled by David Lopez, inked by Bit) is the flip side of this month’s Adventures of Superman, also written by Rucka. It is more substantial than AoS, though, because it dovetails Rucka’s subplots and supporting cast with the “Sacrifice”/OMAC macro-plot. Specifically, WW confronts a couple of Max Lord’s foot soldiers, one of whom turns out to be a close friend. Thus, as with Sasha Bordeaux in Detective and OMAC, Rucka has treated negatively another of his own characters who once was very sympathetic. I don’t know whether this means Rucka doesn’t care about his characters, although that doesn’t seem likely. Rather, it seems to be more indicative of How Bad Things Are Now. In any event, this was a good issue, and while I don’t like the repetitiveness of the flashbacks, I appreciate Rucka doing that for the benefit of those happy few who only read this book.
Astro City: The Dark Age #3 (written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by Brent Anderson) is confident enough in its gritty evocation of ‘70s superheroics to slip in a Ron Burgundy cameo. Such confidence is justified. The two brothers’ story gets a bit more interesting this issue, even as the superheroes get more attention on the global political stage. One thing which confused me was the chronology of Tyranos Rex. Because he’s clearly a Thing-analogue, I thought he was a founding member of the First Family, but according to this issue maybe not. Still, the great thing about Astro City is Busiek’s ability to convey entire peripheral story arcs with just a few lines of narrative shorthand. Maybe it speaks only to the fanboy in me, but I would hope more casual readers could get sucked in too.
Hero Squared #2 (written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Joe Abraham, Mark Badger, and Shannon Denton) relates Captain Valor’s last battle on his own Earth, told first from his perspective and then from Caliginous’. (Badger and Denton do the flashbacks.) Except for a fairly obvious series of gay-Batman jokes, and the notion that Caliginous’ version is less truthful than Valor’s, it’s all about as clever as you’d expect. I almost don’t mind the $3.99 per issue, especially since I’ve been driving less these days.
It’s a tribute to the Solo series that I picked up issue #6 solely on the strength of its predecessors. I had almost no idea who Jordi Bernet was, outside of an 8-page Batman story from several years ago. His style reminds me a lot of Alex Toth and Joe Kubert – thick pencils, full figures, and very expressive faces. Reading this was like watching a Sergio Leone Western (not least because a couple of the stories have frontier themes): a European artist makes a classic American medium his own, and hey, there’s Eastwood/Batman too!
Star Wars: Empire #33 (written by Thomas Andrews, drawn by Adriana Melo) presents the Jabiim storyline’s penultimate chapter, and things are starting to pick up. However, I’m still confused about who did what to whom, both 20 years ago and today. Mitigating this are nice scenes involving Vader, whose presence helps bring together the present-day and Clone Wars elements. There are also familiar elements like Star Destroyers and Rogue Squadron. Still, I’m waiting for Luke, the ostensible hero, to get more involved. Maybe next issue.
Captain America #9 (written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Michael Lark) was a winner of an issue that could have stood effectively on its own. Cap, Fury, and Sharon go on a raid that fails, thanks to the intersection of business and politics. I read this wondering why Cap has to wear the gaudy flag-colored costume and use only an indestructible shield as a weapon, when the SHIELD agents get more practical black outfits with guns. Watching Cap rage with frustration at the men who have made his mission fail, it brought home Cap’s symbolic nature. He has to act a certain way because of what he represents, just like his country has to act a certain way because of what it represents, and practicality must sometimes take a back seat to the symbolism of acting rightly.
Astonishing X-Men #12 (written by Joss Whedon, drawn by John Cassaday) is the big “season finale” blowout between the X-Men and the sentient Danger Room/Sentinel. Most of it is well-choreographed action with snappy Whedon dialogue, but the emotional zinger is a revelation about Xavier’s use of the Danger Room over the years. That’s not quite as successful, because it feels both forced and tacked-on. Looks like the title is taking a brief hiatus, and I don’t know whether I’ll be back when it returns. I do like the villains reintroduced on the last page, so we’ll see.